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Changing Careers

It's never too late to start over! Why not learn a new skill and practice Right Livelihood?

by Valerie Young

For seven years I commuted 90 miles a day to a high-stress job that paid the bills but did not feed my spirit. I felt like I was living in a Dilbert cartoon, and I used to fantasize about changing jobs. Whenever my work would get particularly stressful, I’d think about doing a job search. But was trading cubicles, or bosses, or one set of organizational headaches for another, really the solution? If I’d bothered to look a little deeper, I’d have understood that I yearned for much more than a new job. What I really wanted was simplicity and balance, to experience right livelihood, and to be my own boss.

In principle anyway, I believed author Barbara Sher when she wrote that pursuing your dream “…isn’t a luxury that can wait until you’ve taken care of the ‘serious’ business of life. It’s a necessity.” But in reality, my actions betrayed my beliefs. Somehow I was always too busy putting out fires at work to attend to my own mid-life crisis. So, my longing for career fulfillment and a more simple life was always put on hold. I was by no means rich, but I was blessed to earn what would be considered a good, middle class salary.  I had a new car, a nice home, and the luxury of dining out when I felt like it. But still, something was missing. 

What I didn’t realize fully then was that I was making a choice. By choosing to have more “stuff” in my life, I had less life.  Although I ultimately did choose living a more purposeful life over making a living, it was not before receiving a painful wake-up call. In 1993 my mother Barbara Young died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 61. My mother died just five months before her much-awaited retirement. It was a sorrowful reminder that life really is too precious to defer something as important as our dreams.

A few months after my mother’s death, I found myself sitting in another insufferably long staff meeting led by an ego-centric boss that no one liked, nevermind respected. It was one of those meetings where the only one who says what they really think is the boss, because the rest of us had learned the hard way that there is a reason why the truth is rarely told between the hours of 9 to 5--and that reason is job security. So instead, we’d nod in agreement at the boss’s lame plan only to share our true feelings after the meeting.

I’d been in these kinds of meetings hundred of times before but on this day I was overwhelmed by a different feeling that I can only describe as being diagonally parked in a parallel universe. That’s when it hit me: I didn’t need a new job; I needed a new life! A life with more balance. A life that included time to spend with the people I love, where I work at something I feel passionate about--one that allows me, and not an employer, to decide what time I’ll wake up in the morning and how many vacation days I need. That’s the day I decided to follow my bliss.

I was all too aware though, that there was still the little matter of bills to pay. With a mortgage to cover I was naturally intrigued by Marsha Sinetar’s first book, Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. I decided to put my money angst on hold for the time being and instead focus on finding my passion, my path.

It may take courage to follow our dreams, but the alternative is far riskier. Like most people, I wasn’t in a position financially to just quit my job.  It took two years to fully transition from the 9-to-5 (or should I say, the 8-to-late) world.  During that same time I read dozens of books about career transition. I also talked to lots of people who were in various stages of following their dreams. In the process, I made a wonderful discovery. My passion lay in helping others find and follow their dreams. That’s when the idea for my company Changing Course was born. ChangingCourse.com is an internet resource dedicated to helping people find their life mission and live it. It has been on-line since 1998. My goal for this company was simple: to provide people with resources, tools, perspective, and inspiration to help them discover and follow their dreams of a more fulfilling life working at what they love.

Once I had my business idea it came down to small steps. One day I called a local printer for an estimate on business cards. A few weeks later I ordered the software I’d need to create the website. Not long after I read about a workshop on marketing on the internet. I know it sounds cliché, but small steps really do add up. Two years of planning, hard work, and prayers later, I was able to sit in my sweat pants in my wonderful home office doing exactly what I loved to do.

People constantly tell me what a big chance I took giving up my full-time job. But what I’ve come to realize is that it’s far riskier to look back on your life 20 or 30 or 40 years from now and wish you’d done it differently.

If you are not sure what it is you’d like to do, there are a lot of great holistic schools and programs available. Why not go back to school and train for a new career? By pursuing right livelihood, you would be doing yourself a service--and your community as well.

Reprinted (in part) with permission from www.changingcourse.com.

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